Guest Opinion

City Council Member Says Seattle Needs to Play Offense in Trump Era Too

Bring on 2017 says Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold.

By Lisa Herbold December 29, 2016

We've  asked a handful of local leaders that had big showings in 2016  to reflect on the year ahead.

Even before Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold ran the table during this year's budget process in late November with her $29 million affordable housing bond proposal—upstaging both Mayor Ed Murray and council member Kshama Sawant—PubliCola had already ID'd the freshman member as a driving force on the council back in August. Combining Sawant's lefty cred with Murray's political knack for the art of the deal, while adding her own straight-A student diligence, Herbold's list of first-year wins is notable: secure scheduling guarantees for low-wage workers, a new displacement fee on developers, and protections for renters against source-of-income discrimination. 

Herbold also made good on her former boss, retired veteran city council member Nick Licata's legacy, by helping stall the publicly- financed NBA stadium deal. (The fact that Herbold was Licata's top policy aide, working in city hall since the late 1990s, might explain why she was so adept at being a council member right out of the blocks this year.)

I don't think 2016 was a fluke.

Here's what Herbold says is on the docket for 2017.  (This morning we heard from another 2016 standout, King County Council member Claudia Balducci.)

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Much of 2017 will necessarily focus on preserving the victories of our city and state to keep immigrant and refugee families safe, protect a woman's access to birth control and her right to choose, maintain drug policy reform, love whom we choose, defend a workers' right to unionize while implementing new state and city labor laws, and to do so while also fighting to retain federal funding for homelessness, housing, public safety, and transportation priorities.

But as we play defense we must remember our strength as a city is our ability to play offense in passing new groundbreaking policy that will allow more of our city residents to thrive.

2017 will continue the progress made in 2016 in more help for renters and workers, as well as long awaited advances in public safety and police accountability.

In 2017 the Council is poised to create a new Tenants' Commission and a new City division for Tenant and Landlord Education. My vision for a Tenants' Commission is a body to guide the implementation and enforcement of the new Move-In Fee Legislation, Source of Income Discrimination Legislation, the Rental Housing Registration and Inspection Program, as well as watch dogging enforcement of older laws like the Just Cause Eviction Ordinance, the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance, and the Rental Agreement Regulation Ordinance.  A Tenants' Commission will also be an important voice to consider in Council deliberations on future Mandatory Housing Affordablity upzones in the University District, Downtown/South Lake Union, and Citywide, as well as changes to Design Review and Accessory Dwelling Unit regulations.  The commission should be empowered to recommend new laws like those that help renters with arrests or criminal backgrounds access housing too. A new City division for Tenant and Landlord Education will act as an important City partner for outreach and information for both landlords and tenants.

Workers will see new advances in 2017 with the implementation of the Secure Scheduling Law, another increase in the minimum wage, increased staffing for enforcement at the Office of Labor Standards, new labor rights for independent contract employees, as well as development of a new Family Leave Benefit proposal, and the long awaited Directed Investigations Program to focus investigations on industries known to be more likely to violate labor laws.  Directed Investigation Programs help workers least likely to file complaints, benefit employers who adhere to our labor laws, and reduce caseloads for investigators.

Finally, we will see needed advances in public safety and police accountability with the hiring of 114 new patrol officers, the revival of the Community Service Officer Program (CSO) so unsworn officers can free up SPD officers for 911 response, and the passage of the reform recommendations of the Community Police Commission and my Observers’Rights Legislation.  Early in 2017 the Council will be considering police accountability legislation as part of the 2012 Consent Decree with the US Department of Justice. A federal judge is overseeing this reform process. As the Council representative to District 1, I have heard consistent, strong support for hiring additional police officers as well as for police accountability reform. 

Other policy proposals may grab the headlines in 2017.  There will likely be two new arena proposals for the hoped for Seattle NBA and NHL teams and new bike share program legislation in 2017 too.  But my hope is that the Council stays focused on the issues that most improve the day to day lives of our city residents.

Seattle City Council member Lisa Herbold represents Council District One, West Seattle, South Park. 

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